Police and parishioners are celebrating the success of a scheme introduced to combat the theft of lead from church roofs.
Church Watch was set up by police in Rutland a year ago after neighbouring forces suffered significant increases in the number of metal thefts from churches.
Although Rutland had only had eight incidents in the previous two years, PC Paul Le Pla was worried that offenders might start to travel across the border and target churches in Rutland.
Some churches had already been targeted that year, including Saint Mary the Virgin church in Edith Weston, and St Peter and St Paul Church in Market Overton.
As a result PC Le Pla decided to launch the scheme, which encourages anyone living close to a church to look out for suspicious behaviour and report it to the police.
Since the scheme was launched, not a single incident of lead theft from churches in Rutland has been reported.
PC Le Pla said: “I am obviously delighted that we haven’t had any lead thefts from church roofs in Rutland for more than a year and I am convinced this is due in part to the vigilance of people living and working around our places of worship who are playing a more active role in protecting their community.
“I’d also like to thank Rutland officers for their hard work and commitment in pro-actively patrolling around our churches, targeting offenders and increasing crime prevention awareness in the community.
“We really want to maintain this success and would encourage everyone to continue to remain vigilant and report suspicious behaviour quickly in order to keep our places of worship safe.”
After launching the scheme, officers visited every church in Rutland to carry out a risk assessment and give crime prevention advice. They also added every church to the community messaging system Neighbourhood Link.
Through the system police can quickly send up-to-date, localised crime prevention advice and warnings about suspicious activity in the area.
Canon Lee Francis-Dehqani from All Saints’ Church in Oakham said: “We are very pleased with the progress of this partnership between the churches and our local police. The community in Rutland have really rallied behind this initiative.”
The success of Church Watch has seen it rolled out in Melton Mowbray and Blaby as well.
All the churches in Rutland are signed up to the Neighbourhood Link system.
If residents would like to sign up as well they can visit www.neighbourhoodlink.co.uk or call PC Le Pla on 101 and, when prompted type in 1146 and leave a message.